Artifacts of the Month: Summer camp letters and memorabilia

If the arrival of hot, sticky weather has you reminiscing about your days at summer camp, our June Artifacts of the Month are here to feed your nostalgia.

This set of items from Camp Pinnacle in Hendersonville was skillfully acquired at a flea market by valued donor and NC Miscellany contributor Lew Powell. It includes a Camp Pinnacle newsletter, three letters home from a camp-goer named Barron, and three camp ribbons, dated 1940 to 1942.


In one letter to his mom, Barron offers a few polite introductory sentences and then gets to his real point:

summer camp letter

Dear Mother
Last night we had a banquet last night. How are you. I am fine. Please send me a knife. Write me.
Love Barron

The newsletter, “Pinnacle Pep,” tells of horse shows and swim meets, girls at neighboring camps, and the camp orchestra.

camp items

But while these American boys were making belts, learning to swim, and begging their moms to send them the funnies, their slightly older countrymen were fighting in a world war half a world away. Even amidst the summer revelry, that conflict looms in the background, as evidenced by the last page of “Pinnacle Pep.” It’s a news-brief-style rundown of all the Pinnacle happenings, with the header “Can you imagine that?”


We can only guess at what most of these sentences mean (“‘Smoochy’ Stewart had quite a time the other night…”)

But some are crystal clear, including this brief excerpt:

newsletter excerpt
“Al Brentz is a wonderful specimen of humanity much to his disappointment — he passed his army physical exams…”

And this one, which wraps up the camp news with an ominous prediction:

newsletter excerpt
“Joe Moore and Sam Chambers were yelling at the top of their voices the other morning… Cyrus Jeffords loves to throw water… the wolf of Camp Pinnacle… oooooooow!!!! He better keep his distance… Bobby Chapman has quite a time at the ‘Drakes’… Al Brentz is in the army now………… Well we’ll all be sooner or later…………”

With their lighthearted references to army enlistment casually sandwiched between playful inside jokes, these artifacts show us the tension between the unfettered joy of kids at summer camp and the uncertainty of boys coming of age during wartime.

What are your summer camp memories?

One thought on “Artifacts of the Month: Summer camp letters and memorabilia”

  1. I went to Camp Pinnacle as a kid from the late 80s through the late 90s, and I returned to work as a counselor during college. My closest friends are camp friends: all of my groomsmen, guys whose weddings I’ve been in, people with whom I remain in close contact. One of them came across this and sent it out to a bunch of us. Very awesome reading this, especially this time of year. I would have been packing my trunk and getting ready to go eat Scooter Crunches, fall off the horse Mama, and camp out at Oakmont.

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